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Tonight: GOP Presidential Hopefuls Debate In Miami; U.S.-China Panda Program Ends At National Zoo; Today: Ivanka Trump Takes The Stand In New York Fraud Trial. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 07:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: A transition period but with no timeline. And like so many questions regarding the military operations there, Poppy, there is no hard question as to how long the operation or the after period will last.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, and that's the crucial question, right -- what is -- what is next?

Jim, thank you for the reporting from Jerusalem -- Phil.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a new report finds Americans are piling up record credit card balances and falling behind on the payments. The details -- that's next.

HARLOW: And later today, three pandas at the National Zoo are leaving, heading back to China. That would leave just four pandas left in America's zoos. What does this mean for the longstanding panda diplomacy with China, next.


HARLOW: Tonight in Miami, we will get a third look at the crowded but a little bit smaller Republican field to take on President Biden in the 2024 presidential race. Take a look at the stage -- Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Vivek Ramaswamy. Noticeably absent again, the party's frontrunner by a mile, Donald Trump.

Jeff Zeleny live in Miami ahead of the debate. The field is starting to narrow, at least in terms of who is on the stage. What are you watching for tonight?



The debates have changed the course of this race -- not the top of the race, necessarily, with former President Donald Trump. But look at Nikki Haley. She has really had a moment in the first two

Republican debates so now she will be center stage and she may have some more arrows coming at her as well.

Really, the bottom line is time is running out for these Republican candidates to make their case to voters that they can still be a viable and leading alternative to former President Donald Trump.

So, Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been going back and forth sparring at one another over particular issues like China, the economy -- even their views on abortion. So look, of course, for abortion to be a new question tonight after the results of last night's elections.

Of course, Chris Christie still trying to make his case against Donald Trump. Tim Scott also still in the mix. But it really is that collision between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis that could be one of the most defining moments of the night. They, again, are both trying to make the case why they could take on Donald Trump. Of course, he, as you said, will not be here. He'll be just a few miles away.

HARLOW: Counterprogramming again with a rally. And what I think is so interesting about it --

ZELENY: Right.

HARLOW: -- is that the new CNN polling shows it's not -- it hasn't hurt him not to be on stage at these debates.

ZELENY: In fact, quite the opposite. I mean, he has solidified his base. And that's why all Republicans are not necessarily thrilled that President Biden has exhibited some weakness in our poll and many others because that has simply strengthened Donald Trump.

It's taken away one of the central arguments that the former president can't be reelected again. That he can't beat Joe Biden. These polls suggest the opposite of that. Of course, polls are just a snapshot in time, as we saw last night. The votes are what matter.

But as Donald Trump holds a competing rally this evening in Hialeah, Florida, just a few miles from here, he, of course, is going to make the familiar case that he is the -- effectively, the presumptive nominee. But, of course, we will have to see how those voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina respond to all of this.

But he'll be traveling here tonight with the Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- of course a familiar face. She was the White House press secretary. She'll be endorsing him here tonight.

But the bigger question is who will ultimately emerge as the leading alternative to him -- Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, or maybe someone else. We may get a better glimpse of that --

HARLOW: Um-hum.

ZELENY: -- here tonight. HARLOW: All right, Jeff --

ZELENY: Poppy and Phil.

HARLOW: -- we'll be watching. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, for the better part of 50 years, U.S.-China relations were somewhat on display at the National Zoo in Washington. It was all part of what's been called "Panda Diplomacy." But three pandas -- the three pandas at the D.C. zoo will be shipped back to China later today. Zoo staff -- they call it a hiatus in the wildly popular panda program that dates back to the Nixon administration.

At its peak, there were 15 pandas at U.S. zoos. But after today, there will be just four left in the country in Zoo Atlanta.

For more, let's bring in CNN's David Culver live in Los Angeles. David, there's no doubt that this is sad for zoogoers, but what are the political undertones here? I'm surprised that this has happened.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and there's a lot of political undertones here, Phil, that we can dive into.

And this is the hour right now where the pandas are waking up. They're getting into the crates. They're going to soon board a flight to Chengdu, China. That's panda hub if you will where all the breeding and research is focused -- not to mention it's their natural habitat.

For animal lovers, as you point out -- yeah, this is really sad. But this might even be more tragic for U.S.-China relations.

At its height -- you mentioned those 15 pandas here in the U.S. You had San Diego, you had Memphis, you have four in Atlanta, and you have the National Zoo's three, which are, of course leaving in a few hours. But in the last decade, the numbers across the country have dropped and that's coincided with worsening U.S. relations.

So I know it sounds strange even amidst far more pressing issues between the U.S. and China. But as you point out, with panda diplomacy, which really started in 1972 with President Nixon's historic visit to China, giant pandas -- they've become ambassadors for China.

Initially, they were gifted to countries and now they're loaned. They're not cheap. They cost anywhere from half a million to a million dollars a year for a pair.

And it's interesting. Producer Yoonjung and I have tracked where pandas are leading and where they're going, and this is really telling because we get a better sense of this new world order -- those are China's words -- that they're hoping to craft. China acknowledges that these cuddly creatures are used for major political and diplomatic needs.

Now, they're going to places where China hopes to gain. We're talking EU countries like Denmark, Finland, Germany. In the Middle East, Qatar. China's northern neighbor, Russia. All of those countries getting pandas in recent years.

Worth noting, Phil, these are regions where China is looking to bolster its relations and increase its influence. There is a strategy to this.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's not trivial. And -- which is the reason I ask this question. In six days, President Xi is expected to travel to California. He's expected to meet with President Biden -- a critical face-to-face meeting. Is this something that's going to come up?


CULVER: Folks would say why would President Biden dare even mention this to President Xi. We've got growing tensions in the South China Sea surrounding Taiwan, in particular. You've got questions over China's ties with Russia amidst its war with Ukraine. Allegations of human rights abuses in China. You've got IT. We know there's a really long list.

But it is possible Phil that, yeah, this might come up. And I say that because this week, Australia's prime minister -- in fact, he just left China for a state visit. And talk about a country with dire relations with China. That apparently came up. Australia's prime minister making mention of Australia holding onto its pandas a bit longer.

And I should just say this, Phil. By the way, once the three leave today -- you mentioned Zoo Atlanta four -- their contracts expire next year. If those are not renewed, the only panda in all of the Americas -- you know where it is? Mexico City.

MATTINGLY: I mean, I'm offended to some degree. It's such a huge deal in D.C. There's a panda cam. Like, the births of pandas was --


MATTINGLY: -- almost a national holiday.

I do have to say, David, if you don't mind -- because I know how well- sourced you are both in China and here -- a potential diplomatic middle ground to be proposed -- maybe we get a couple of sun bears. I'm a big sun bear guy. And to see -- and I just want to know your take on this. You're an astute observer of all things politics in both countries. What do you think?

CULVER: Look, China obviously stands by sun bears being real. People mistook them for being humans dressed up in costume. And if that's the case, I can tell you there's a few empty panda exhibits now across the U.S., Phil, where we could maybe get a few folks dressing up as that -- or maybe they would be retrofitted for the sun bear. I don't know. I mean --


CULVER: -- it might make relations a bit bearable, right?

MATTINGLY: There it is -- see. I'm just saying we're solutions guys, David, you know?

CULVER: Yeah, yeah.

MATTINGLY: And while the rest of the world is trying to break apart we're going to find puns and we're going to find solutions.

David Culver, I appreciate you, my friend. Thank you.

CULVER: We'll bring the honey, Phil -- all right.

HARLOW: This is -- Culver, this is all Mattingly has been talking about all morning.

MATTINGLY: I was so excited to talk to David about this.

CULVER: I can tell he's obsessed -- yeah.

HARLOW: Thanks for playing.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy.

CULVER: Good to see you, guys.

HARLOW: Some new signs of a resurging economy this morning. Americans appear to be piling up record credit card balances. I'm not sure that's a good thing. More are following behind on their payments. That's definitely not a good thing.

U.S. credit card balances saw their largest yearly leap on record during the third quarter report from the Fed. Federal Reserve Bank of New York say credit card balances hit a high of $1.08 trillion, rising $48 billion from the prior quarter. And that's up a record $154 billion from just a year ago. Those year-over-year increases, the largest since the New York Fed started tracking this data in 1999.

What economic problem? What potential recession?


HARLOW: Everything's fine. Just swipe.

We are now nine days away from potentially another government shutdown. And last time the government stayed open thanks to a bipartisan deal, but it cost Kevin McCarthy his speakership.

Congressman Tim Burchett, who voted to oust McCarthy because of that -- he's going to be here to talk about how they're going to avoid another potential shutdown.



MATTINGLY: Well, voters in Republican-leaning Ohio approving a ballot measure to establish a state constitutional right to an abortion. It marks the seventh state where voters have backed abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, including deep-red Kansas and Kentucky -- also, Montana. The Ohio vote is likely to reinforce Democrats' plans to make abortion rights a central message in 2024.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Tim Burchett of Tennessee for our weekly check-in. I want to talk about policy and what happens in nine days in a moment.

But I do want to start -- as a Republican -- as a member of your party, regardless of how you feel about the issue, do you feel like this is a losing issue for Republicans on abortion?

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): Well, if we -- if we couch it, right, I don't think it is. It's a state's rights issue and this is exactly what throwing Roe v. Wade out actually did. It threw it back to the states. So, at some point, it's going to balance out as most of these issues usually do.

MATTINGLY: Well, I mean, I think Glenn Youngkin would say it didn't work out great for Virginia Republicans last night.

BURCHETT: Sure. Well, Virginia, of course, is so close to our nation's capital. I mean, you -- if you take out all the government employees and lobbyists that you would have up there and members of the national media, I would say that probably you'd have a pretty conservative state. But other than those folks, you don't. So that's kind of the way it is up there.

MATTINGLY: I kind of teed you up for that one, didn't I?

BURCHETT: Yeah, you really did, yeah. But I did -- I did want to say -- I wanted to -- hey, I wanted to lead off with it. It's Wednesday and there's two things. I'm going to be on this dadgum show and the good folks in Tennessee are going to go to prayer meeting tonight where they usually get a good meal. So that's --

MATTINGLY: And everyone is going to enjoy their time at both places.

Congressman, I do want to ask you about what happens in nine days. I think I was struck this morning thinking nine days until a government shutdown. House Republicans plans, as it stands -- at least as far as I understand it this morning -- is considered dead on arrival in the Senate. The president opposes it.

You just pulled an appropriation -- a full-year appropriations bill last night because it didn't have the votes. And there doesn't seem to be a path forward right now.

What is actually different from the last time we did this with Kevin McCarthy?

BURCHETT: Well, actually, the leadership is listening to the membership and that's why there's going to be several options for us.

There's a -- my friends in the Freedom Caucus -- I'm often confused with being a member. I told Jim Jordan one time you get me for free and he said what do you mean by that? I said, well, I vote just as conservative as your members and I don't get a chicken dinner every week out of your -- of your club. So -- and he laughed about that.


But the truth is that we do have several options and one of those is a laddered approach, which will -- which will go along a series of votes and taking us to the point of where we will pass all the 12 appropriations amendments.

But the key thing you've got to realize is that we're trying to get to is to pass a dadgum budget. Jodey Arrington chairs the Budget Committee. And man, I'm telling you, this country is hungry for that. It's 30 years since we passed a budget.


BURCHETT: As you well know and as I've stated that our credit has been knocked down. This is only the second time in the history of this country and it's both parties. It's been over a 30-year period. And the two reasons are leadership and our fiscal responsibility, which we have none of.

Last night, there were several amendments on the floor that would have saved millions of dollars, yet no one had the guts in either party, apparently, to pass them. I voted for all of them but obviously, they didn't pass.

And so, we've got to figure out are we going to raise taxes or are we going to cut spending? We're not going to tax ourself into prosperity.


BURCHETT: We're $33 trillion in debt. And I know you've just -- you've seen it, but just this week, we passed a trillion dollars a year in interest on our -- on our loans alone.

So we've got to -- we've got to get control of this thing. We ran up a trillion dollars in --


BURCHETT: -- three months this year.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's -- there's no question there are fiscal issues right now. There is a question about whether or not you can keep the government open to actually pass that budget.

The good news is seven days from now you'll still have two days until a shutdown and you'll be back on this dadgum show and we can walk through --


MATTINGLY: -- what the options are.

BURCHETT: Dadgummit.

MATTINGLY: Congressman Tim Burchett --


MATTINGLY: -- of Tennessee. I appreciate you. Thank you.

BURCHETT: Always a pleasure. I hope to be back next Wednesday, brother.

HARLOW: I can't get between the two of them. The conversation is too good. So we'll see you on Wednesday, Congressman.

All right. After multiple attempts to challenge her subpoena, Ivanka Trump will take the stand today in her father's civil fraud trial. What we could learn from that testimony -- that's next.



MATTINGLY: This morning, after several failed attempts to avoid testifying, Ivanka Trump will take the witness stand in the New York fraud trial against her father and the Trump Organization. New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused the family's business of falsely adjusting the value of its assets to get better insurance coverage and a favorable bank loan.

Joining us now, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. He is the best-selling author of three books on Trump, including "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family." We appreciate your time because nobody knows this stuff better.

When it comes to Ivanka Trump's role in this business, what do you think we're going to hear from her at the trial today?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, SYRACUSE LAW SCHOOL, AUTHOR, "THE BIG CHEAT: HOW DONALD TRUMP FLEECED AMERICA AND ENRICHED HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY" (via Webex by Cisco): Well, Ivanka, it's important to keep in mind, no longer depends on her father for her financial well-being. Her husband, as a result of things he did in the White House, is a very wealthy man. That distinguishes her from Don Jr. and Eric, her older -- her brothers, who very much depend on daddy.

I expect Ivanka will try to minimize her role in things. And the public record that I have shows that her role in many of the scams Donald ran was as a sort of sales agent -- a closing agent, not in the details of how they were run. She was a marketer for (audio gap).

HARLOW: There was one thing that we heard from Trump on the stand that I am interested in, and I wonder if she's going to be asked about it today and how she may weigh in. It was in this back-and-forth over the valuations and what Trump knew versus what the banks looked at. And Trump testified about these valuations.

Quote, "I would look at them, I would see them, and I would maybe on occasion have some suggestions."

David, how do expect them to talk to Ivanka about that today, and what to ask her on that?

JOHNSTON: Well, in Donald's answer, Poppy, you see what Donald always does. It's a minimal role for him for anything that's questionable and something is done incorrectly. That's the fault of those people. I have never done anything wrong in my life.

And I expect Ivanka will largely take the position that she was not particularly involved in these things. She may give us a fair number of "I don't remembers," but I don't think she will do that to the extent that she puts herself in any legal jeopardy. She has no reason to put herself in jeopardy to maintain her financial relationship with her father, which contrasts with the situation of her two oldest brothers.

MATTINGLY: Take a step back. We expect that the defense will present its case after Ivanka Trump is done today. If they give the quote- unquote "corporate death penalty" here, what does that actually mean for Trump and the Trump Organization?

JOHNSTON: Well, the judge, in fact, imposed it, and then an appeals court has delayed this.

In New York State, you cannot operate a business, as in any other state, unless you have a license. We call them certificates in New York. And if those certificates are revoked, then the Trump properties must be transferred. But before that can happen those properties, as needed, will be sold to pay any penalties the state is owed based on whatever ruling Judge Engoron makes.

And without a business license, all of Donald Trump's 500-plus entities are at risk that they will be sold by a receiver, not unlike the process in bankruptcy court, and he will lose -- he could lose control of the portions he owns of Trump Tower and other properties.

HARLOW: What are the issues on appeal? I mean -- and do you think that they have a chance of prevailing on that point? There's a bunch of points here, but on appeal.

JOHNSTON: Well, there is no grounds for them to appeal on the findings of fact by the judge. They chose to have a bench trial.


JOHNSTON: Whether it was inadvertent or deliberate, they chose to do that. So the findings of fact by the judge that there was fraud, they're not going to get anywhere on that.

Now, they clearly are trying to provoke the judge with some kind of error, and he has not always maintained his cool, but I don't see anything so strong that it would allow them to overturn something. But you will see a whole flurry of appeals.